DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Marco Estrada is feeling good with his refined mechanics and believes he is "right around the corner" from where he needs to be at the start of the regular season.Estrada admitted earlier this spring that video revealed he was tipping his changeup at times last season. A
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Marco Estrada is feeling good with his refined mechanics and believes he is "right around the corner" from where he needs to be at the start of the regular season.
Estrada admitted earlier this spring that video revealed he was tipping his changeup at times last season. A minor flaw in his delivery, and slightly slower arm speed on the changeup vs. fastball, may have allowed his opponents to know what was coming. He has since been working to smooth everything out and make sure it doesn't happen again.
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The four-seam fastball and changeup were his main points of emphasis during Friday afternoon's 8-5 victory over the Orioles. Estrada allowed one run on four hits, while striking out two over four strong innings. He mostly stayed away from the cutter and curveball and instead went heavy on his best two pitches to focus on command.
"I think my delivery is right on point right now, good timing," the 34-year-old said. "The biggest thing for me is drifting forward. I have to make sure I stay back, especially out of the wind-up, because there's a lot more movement. I feel like I'm right over the rubber, I'm staying back when I need to, and the pitches are coming out good."
Estrada has been impressive so far with one earned run on five hits over eight innings. He has yet to walk a batter while striking out six, and he likely will be stretched out to five innings for his next appearance. It may only be Spring Training, but after Estrada posted a 4.98 ERA last season the Blue Jays will happily take the early positives.
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"I feel like I'm right around the corner from it," Estrada said. "It feels really good. The timing is good. Just got to keep working on it. That's what we're here for, Spring Training, to work on some things."
Blue Jays hold moment of silence for Cooper
The flags at Dunedin Stadium flew at half-staff on Friday afternoon in memory of William Cooper, who was a frequent bus driver for the Blue Jays. Cooper was driving one of Toronto's buses back from a road trip in Sarasota, Fla., Thursday afternoon when he pulled over to the side of the road shortly before having a medical emergency.
Cooper passed away later in the day. His son, Bernard, is the Blue Jays' regular bus driver in Florida, and he also handled the same duties during Toronto's run to the 2016 American League Championship Series in Cleveland. His father had a frequent presence around the team as a secondary driver. Prior to Friday's game against Baltimore, the Blue Jays made an announcement over the PA and observed a moment of silence.
• Marcus Stroman played catch for the second consecutive day on Friday morning, and the Blue Jays are now in the process of putting together a revised schedule for his rehab. Stroman is expected to progress in the near future to throwing off a mound, and after a session or two he should then be cleared to appear in games. Stroman remains doubtful for the first week of the season but has not been officially ruled out.
• Left fielder Steve Pearce is "feeling better," but manager John Gibbons does not know when he will be cleared to return. Pearce has missed the last week of camp because of a mild calf strain that the club attributed to dehydration. Injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki also remains without a firm timetable for a return and still appears noticeably hobbled by a bone spur in his right foot.
Right-hander Tyler Clippard made his spring debut on Thursday and struck out two in a scoreless inning of work. Clippard entered in the eighth inning, when Baltimore's regulars were out of the game, and retired all three batters he faced. Clippard is a favorite to win one of the two open spots in the bullpen, but he faces competition from others such as John Axford, Al Alburquerque and Craig Breslow, none of whom pitched against the Orioles.
"A lot of guys are pitching good right now, so we'll see," Gibbons said. "In the end, of course, Clippard, we'll see what he's got. He's been around. I like veteran guys that have been through it before. It's definitely turned into a strength of ours where it wasn't too long ago we were wondering who might do what."
Veteran lefty Jaime Garcia will make his first start of the spring when the Blue Jays host the Tigers on Saturday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET and broadcast live on MLB.TV. Garcia's first appearance this spring came out of the bullpen as he allowed a pair of runs over an inning vs. Philadelphia. Garcia will be stretched out to two or three innings this time around.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.